At 11, Peter still had a tremendous fear of animals. Live animals are unpredictable, have a definite scent, lick him without permission and in general test all of Peter's daily stresses that come with his autistic spectrum disorder.
The fiery scent of coconut oils and pungent spices of St. Catherine's Jamaica seems thousands of years away from Lena McCalla Njee's autistic classrooms of Augusta Street School, part of the Irvington High School system in New Jersey.
The day my son was diagnosed with autism was the day my world came to a screeching halt. I didn't know what to do or what to say. Like so many stories I have heard from parents over the years, our diagnosis came with no compassion and no hope.
Being in contact with these kind autists has taught me more than any specialist, article, book or news show. These people with their writing and blogs have opened my mind to the very real possibilities that exist for my daughter. This gives me hope.
When Mickey was diagnosed 16 years ago, there was no road map to tell us what lay ahead. How do we build a full life for him after high school? Where will he live? And our ultimate dread: Who will love him when we are gone?